Jill Lepore

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  • Born: August 27, 1966
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Historian

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In a heavily armed society, there is no longer anything that can be called civilian life. Guns & Gun Control
Letters and other characters—alphabets, syllabaries, signs and codes—hold nations together. English, Languages & Bilingualism
A mystery, in Christian theology, is what God knows and man cannot, and must instead believe. Religion & God
A problem with a president who leads by stirring the moral sentiments of voters is that he has got to keep stirring them.
Accepting money from the federal government to conduct research places academic inquiry in the service of national interests. Government ;Money, Coins & Minting
Americans like to get rich fast. That this means we go broke fast, too, is something that we have become very good at forgetting. Our ignorance of history is matched only by our unfailing optimism; it's actually part of our optimism. History
Americans, among the marryingest people in the world, are also the divorcingest.
An ordinary life used to look something like this: born into a growing family, you help rear your siblings, have the first of your own half-dozen or even dozen children soon after you're grown, and die before your youngest has left home. Life ;Families, Children & Parenting
As a matter of historical analysis, the relationship between secrecy and privacy can be stated in an axiom: the defense of privacy follows, and never precedes, the emergence of new technologies for the exposure of secrets.
As many as two out of every three Europeans who came to the colonies were debtors on arrival: they paid for their passage by becoming indentured servants.
As with the factory, so with the office: in an assembly line, the smaller the piece of work assigned to any single individual, the less skill it requires, and the less likely the possibility that doing it well will lead to doing something more interesting and better paid. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Book reviewing dates only to the eighteenth century, when, for the first time, there were so many books being printed that magazines - they were new, too - started printing essays about them. Time
Clarence Darrow, America's best-known trial lawyer, was also one of American history's most skilled orators. History
Conservatism cherishes tradition; innovation fetishizes novelty. They tug in different directions, the one toward the past, the other toward the future. Future
Damning taxes is a piece of cake. It's defending them that's hard.
Democracy is difficult and demanding. So is history. It can crack your voice; it can stir your soul; it can break your heart. History
Desktop computers - boxes inside boxes - began appearing in those cubicles in the mid-eighties, electrical cords curling on the floor like so many ropes. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Disruptive innovation is competitive strategy for an age seized by terror.
'Doctor Who' began as family television: a show that kids and their parents and grandparents can all watch, maybe even together, on the sofa. Families, Children & Parenting
'Doctor Who' is the most original science-fiction television series ever made. It is also one of the longest-running television shows of all time. Time
'Doctor Who' is, unavoidably, a product of mid-twentieth-century debates about Britain's role in the world as its empire unravelled.
Epidemics follow patterns because diseases follow patterns. Viruses spread; they reproduce; they die.
Epidemiologists study patterns in order to combat infection. Stories about epidemics follow patterns, too. Stories aren't often deadly, but they can be virulent: spreading fast, weakening resistance, wreaking havoc.
Few American presidents have been unhappier or lonelier in office than Woodrow Wilson.
Folklore used to be passed by word of mouth, from one generation to the next; that's what makes it folklore, as opposed to, say, history, which is written down and stored in an archive. History
Fox News's coverage of 9/11 and the war in Iraq improved its ratings, demonstrated its influence, and intensified the controversy over its practices. War & Peace
Germ theory, which secularized infectious disease, had a side effect: it sacralized epidemiology.
Historians once assumed that when childhood mortality was high, people must not have loved their children very much; it would have been too painful. Research has since proved that assumption wrong.
History is hereditary only in this way: we, all of us, inherit everything, and then we choose what to cherish, what to disavow, and what to do next, which is why it's worth trying to know where things come from. History
History is only written from what remains. History
History's written from what can be found; what isn't saved is lost, sunken and rotted, eaten by earth. History
I always just wanted to be a writer, not necessarily a particular kind of writer.
I was obsessed with George Orwell for years. I remember going to the town library and having to put in interlibrary loan requests to get the compilation of his BBC radio pieces. I had to get everything he ever wrote.
If you know a lot about something and apply that information to a vote that matches your policy preferences, your opinion quality is high.
In 2010, one in four Americans got the news from Fox News.
In antihistory, time is an illusion. Time
In kindergarten, you can learn how to be a citizen of the world.
In the ancient world, taxes were paid in kind: landowners paid in crops or livestock; the landless paid with their labor. Taxing trade made medieval monarchs rich and funded the early-modern state.
In the last years of the nineteen-eighties, I worked not at startups but at what might be called finish-downs. Tech companies that were dying would hire temps - college students and new graduates - to do what little was left of the work of the employees they'd laid off. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
In the nineteen-thirties, one in four Americans got their news from William Randolph Hearst, who lived in a castle and owned twenty-eight newspapers in nineteen cities.
In the trunk of her car, my mother used to keep a collapsible easel, a clutch of brushes, a little wooden case stocked with tubes of paint, and, tucked into the spare-tire well, one of my father's old, tobacco-stained shirts, for a smock.
It feels silly to watch endless hours of winter sports every four years, when we never watch them any other time, and we don't even understand the rules, which doesn't stop us from scoring everyone, every run, every skate, every race. Time ;Sports & Athletics
Mainly, the more faddish and newer stages of life are really just marketing schemes. Tweenhood. The young old. The quarter-life crisis. Life
Mainly, the more faddish and newer stages of life are really just marketing schemes. Tweenhood. The young old. The quarter-life crisis. You can sell a lot of junk to a lot of people by inventing a stage of life and giving it a name. Life
Middle-class mothers and fathers turned out to be a very well-defined consumer group, easily gulled into buying almost anything that might remedy their parental deficiencies.
Modern political science started in the late nineteenth century as a branch of history. History ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
My grandmother, who taught me how to cook, didn't know how to read.
My mother liked to command me to do things I found scary. I always wanted to stay home and read. My mother only ever wanted me to get away.
My mother married my father in 1956. She was twenty-eight, and he was thirty-one. She loved him with a fierce steadiness borne of loyalty, determination, and an unyielding dignity.
Nineteenth-century grass-roots populism made twentieth-century progressivism possible.
No nation has a single history, no people a single song. History
Not long before my mother died, I found a long-lost portrait of Jane Franklin's granddaughter, Jane Flagg, aged nine - oil on canvas - in the basement of a public library not a dozen miles from my mother's house.
Old reference books are like tree rings. Without them, there'd be no way to know what a tree had lived through.
One day, I was playing 'The Game of Life,' the board game, with a mess of kids, and I wasn't quite sure how, but it seemed different than the game I remembered playing as a kid. So I bought an old game, from 1960, and it was different. Life
One thing that always frustrated me was that, while Benjamin Franklin's was the best-known face of the eighteenth century, no one ever took his sister's likeness.
Political elites vote in a more partisan fashion than the mass public; this tendency, too, follows a curve. The more you know, the more likely you are to vote in an ideologically consistent way, not just following your party but following a set of constraints dictated by a political ideology.
Presidential biography is, by its nature, out of scale; no character is bigger, no action greater, than the person and the doings of the American president. Nature
Scientific management promised to replace rules of thumb with accurate measurements.
Secrecy is what is known, but not to everyone. Privacy is what allows us to keep what we know to ourselves.
Secret government programs that pry into people's private affairs are bound up with ideas about secrecy and privacy that arose during the process by which the mysterious became secular. Government
Since childhood, I wrote a lot of fiction, a lot of stories, but I most loved writing essays.
Some people will always think they know how to make other people's marriages better, and, after a while, they'll get to cudgeling you or selling you something; the really entrepreneurial types will sell you the cudgel.
Stages of life are artifacts. Adolescence is a useful contrivance, midlife is a moving target, senior citizens are an interest group, and tweenhood is just plain made up. Life
Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, for modernity, and for prosperity. The wealthy pay more because they have benefitted more. Society
Taxes, well laid and well spent, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare. Taxes protect property and the environment; taxes make business possible. Taxes pay for roads and schools and bridges and police and teachers. Taxes pay for doctors and nursing homes and medicine. Business, Commerce & Finance
The idea of progress - the notion that human history is the history of human betterment - dominated the world view of the West between the Enlightenment and the First World War. History ;War & Peace
The idea that debt is necessary for trade, and has to be forgiven, is consequent to the rise of a market economy. The idea that debt is wrong and should be punished is a feature of a moral economy.
The Karen Ann Quinlan case is where the right to life and the right to die got bound together, and I don't think they've ever gotten untangled. Life
The Olympics is an imperfect interregnum, the parade of nations a fantasy about a peace never won. It offers little relief from strife and no harbor from terror. War & Peace
The stories about epidemics that are told in the American press - their plots and tropes - date to the nineteen-twenties, when modern research science, science journalism, and science fiction were born. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The study of history requires investigation, imagination, empathy, and respect. Reverence just doesn't enter into it. Respect ;History
The very first television ad targeted to women was produced by the Eisenhower-Nixon campaign in 1956. It includes footage of a woman supervising her children doing their homework at the kitchen table. Women
Theories of history used to be supernatural: the divine ruled time; the hand of God, a special providence, lay behind the fall of each sparrow. If the present differed from the past, it was usually worse: supernatural theories of history tend to involve decline, a fall from grace, the loss of God's favor, corruption. Time ;History ;Religion & God
Throughout the nineteen-seventies and eighties, especially during periods of recession, employees were moved from offices to cubicles.
We have discharged one generation of debtors after another, but we do not find that their numbers lessen. We find only that we forget, when times are good, that times were ever bad.
Weirdly, there have been a lot of critics of conservatism, but very few critics of innovation. As a culture, we are deeply paranoid about politics, but we gaze upon innovation with rapturous adulation. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Well-reported news is a public good; bad news is bad for everyone.
When business became big business - conglomerates employing hundreds and even thousands of people - companies divided themselves into still smaller units. Business, Commerce & Finance
When I was a kid, I used to deliver the newspaper all over town, cramming papers between screen doors and into mailboxes and under doormats.
When I was a kid, my father would go to our school in the summer to sweep, mop, and wax the floors, room by room, hall by hall, week after week.

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